The Only Truth (Garen/Katarina)

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kittytoast

Senior Member

12-20-2012

Revolution by Design: Part Two

***

Cassiopeia slithered after Talon as he strode to the mail room, complaining gracelessly the whole way about how he should buy her lunch for being so rude during their meeting; he rolled his eyes, considering doing so just to still her forked tongue.

"Who would send you mail anyway," she jabbed, earning a glare from the assassin. "You're an *******."

"Anyone ever tell you you're a ***** when you're hungry?" he muttered.

The serpentine woman hissed at him, though there was no menace behind it, but stopped talking as the mail room attendant returned with a blank envelope and passed it to Talon. "Well what do you know," Cassiopeia smirked. "Someone out there likes you!"

But as he flipped it over, both Champions gasped at the familiar DuCouteau seal pressed into the wax, and he ripped it open only to find the letter contained was an incoherent jumble of letters and numbers. Incoherent to everyone except for Talon, who'd spent weeks poring over the code used in this particular letter.

"Talon," Cassiopeia warned, gripping his arm in her vice-like claws. "What is this?"

"I… I don't know," he lied, pushing past her and shoving the letter inside his cloak.

She followed on his heels, scales scraping against the marble floor as she pursued him with a mounting anger. "Don't lie to me! Is this about my father?!"

Talon panicked and bolted forward, but Cassiopeia's temper was just as quick. A blood-curdling screech burst from her lips, so violent he could swear he felt the weight of it on his back, and suddenly he could barely lift his legs to run.

She dashed after him, and he felt her claws rip into his neck, wrenching his head back to stare into her burning eyes. "Is this about my father!"

"Maybe, ****!" he groaned, pulling her hands off of him. "It's the same code!"

As quickly as her anger set in, it left, and Cassiopeia let out a strangled cry as she covered her mouth. "What does it say?" she whispered.

"Hell if I know," he growled. "I'll need a minute to figure it out."

"Well hurry up!" the snake commanded.

Shooting her a glare, Talon seized her arm and pulled her along the hall toward his room, sluggishly at first until the magic of her scream wore away. "C'mon, in private at least. And until we get this figured this out, we don't tell Katarina, understood? It'll only worry her."

Cassiopeia hesitated, before nodding, following in subdued silence until the door to Talon's room was locked behind them. The assassin rummaged in his pack, throwing out his clothes and knives until he came the bottom of the sack, where he pulled out a small book, wrapped inside a shirt. As he flipped through it, Cassiopeia paced impatiently around the room, tapping her fingers against her arm. Finally Talon found the page he was looking for, and she peered over his shoulder to see his scrawled handwriting, the cipher for Marcus DuCouteau's code.

Leaning against the bed, Talon flipped his hood from his face and drew his knees up to his chest, the book and the letter in his lap. "Give me a minute," he murmured, eyes flashing between the two pages as he quickly scrawled out the message.

A few minutes passed in a strained silence, but his brusque voice eventually broke it, drawing Cassiopeia to his side in a flash. "I've got it," he called.

24 May, 22CLE

Talon, Cass, & Kat,

I'm sorry I haven't contacted you until now. You have every right to be angry but we can discuss it later. Things are quickly escalating into what looks like the Third Rune War and LeBlanc is in control of the Institute of War somehow. With this martial law, Swain will soon march against the Institute and LeBlanc, and if there is no one ready, I have no doubts he will take it. But I've ensured that the lower Noxian houses stand against Swain. I will be at the Hasty Hammer in Kalamanda tomorrow night, if any of you can make it to coordinate. If not, I'll be in touch soon, or leave a message for me with the bartender there. Stay strong. The worst has yet to come.

MdC

PS. Bring that Demacian fellow Katarina keeps around. I need to make sure he's been doing what I told him.


The two DuCouteau's simply sat in stunned silence.

"I can't believe he thinks he can just leave a message, after no one hears from him for months!" Cassiopeia finally cried. "For all we knew, he was dead!"

"Cass, it'll be ok," Talon assured. "Tomorrow! We can see him tomorrow right?"

Angry tears were spilling from the woman's eyes and she snarled, "I don't even want to see him now!"

The assassin frowned. "Don't be a brat."

"I can be a brat if I want!" she shrieked. "And what the hell is with the post script! Has Garen talked to him?"

Confused, the red-eyed man re-read the letter, finding no answers. "I…I don't know."

"This is ****ed up. You go play war with the General, and take that stupid man with you." Cassiopeia crossed her arms. "I'm not going."

Shaking his head, Talon carefully folded the letter and stuck it in the book, which he tucked inside his cloak. "When you cool down, you're going to regret not coming." Her pride, however, kept her from replying, and she slid over to the door and left, without a word.

***

"Good of you to join me Mister Crownguard," Kiersta intoned politely, gesturing to the chair in front of her. "I am very sorry to hear about your exile."

"Thank you, High Councilor."

Brushing a stray lock of black hair from her soft face, the woman sighed, "I really am sympathetic to your plight, and I wish I could allow you to stay here and recuperate from such an unfortunate event with no strings attached. But I'm afraid you must be a summoner or Champion of the League to reside here. Are you willing to do what is necessary to re-enter?"

Garen tapped his fingers nervously against his legs as he replied, "About that. I've been a Champion pretty much from the beginning. Can't you just add me to the roster as independent and be done with it? Without a Judgment?"

To his surprise, Kiersta seemed to consider his request, though a look of unease spread across her pretty features. "Well… High Councilor Kolminye did allow three other Champions in with minimal requirements."

"It wouldn't really be fair then if I had to go through the whole process again, then," he pressed, hoping his luck would hold.

Kiersta slowly shook her head. "I will compromise. I will judge you here, without High Councilor Kolminye and the other Senior Summoner. You have been a faithful Champion but I must abide by the rules also."

He wanted to ask if going along with Vessaria on controlling the world was part of following the rules, but bit his tongue and nodded, touching the reassuring weight of the sword hanging from his belt.

"Then let us begin," she stated, raising her hands. The room seemed to darken, and a burst of light erupted between her palms, blinding him.

When his vision returned, he was wearing only his underclothes and cuffed to a metal chair, staring into a two-way mirror. He couldn't stop the sickening dread that took his body as he looked from the mirror to the door where the King stood, to a tense Jarvan IV, to Lux, her face red and eyes teary; he knew what came next, replayed it many times while in Kalamanda.

Lux began to sob as the King addressed her, and Garen had to look away as her tiny frame shook. All the pain he caused his sister, all avoidable. Guilt overwhelmed him; he wanted to cry.

"Garen Crownguard," King Jarvan addressed, finally turning his steely gaze back to Garen, "for crimes against Demacia including fraternization with an enemy agent and petty treason for aiding in the retrieval of another known enemy agent, you are hereby dishonorably discharged from your station as Commander of the Dauntless Vanguard. Furthermore, your status as a Champion of Demacia is permanently revoked, and you shall no longer be affiliated with Demacia in any form. In honor of your previously faithful service, I will keep this charge from the public, but you are never to step foot into Demacian territory, and any infraction of this order will result in a public execution."

It didn't hurt any less hearing it the second time, and his heart thudded erratically against his ribs, his lungs refusing to work. But before the scene could play out, light surrounded the soldier once more, and when it receded once more, he found that he was in his bed at home wearing nothing at all.

"When all the political games are through, and everything is back to normal, what do you want to do?" Katarina asked, her hand tracing lazy patterns across his chest.

Garen closed his eyes, instantly relaxing into the feeling of her pressed against his side, her hair tangled in his fingers. "I don't know. But I want to be able to see you whenever I want. Whatever will let me do that."

The assassin let out a short but genuine laugh. "You're so cheesy! How did I end up with you?" she teased.

With a playful growl he turned onto his side and muttered, "I'm cheesy? Who was the one who wanted to run away to Bilgewater and become pirates?"

He remembered joining her laughter that followed, the motion awakening something besides mirth inside their bodies, but instead her brow creased in a frown. "What about the League?" she whispered.

"Wha-?"

"Why do you want to join the League?"

He instantly blushed, forgetting for that blissful moment that he was in a League Judgment. "Ah, I... I want to help you... her with our mission. I can protect her."

"Is that all?"

Garen bit his lip. "Whatever it takes, I want to make the world a place where we can be together."

Finally, Katarina grinned, "And how does it feel, exposing your mind?"

"As terrible as ever," he hissed. "And embarrassing. Get out of my head."

The light returned and when it faded, he was back in Kiersta's office, the High Councilor smirking knowingly, a blush staining her cheeks. "Cute."

"Inappropriate," he countered, causing her smile to fade.

"You plan to move against High Councilor Kolminye," she stated, her face neutral.

Anxious fingers brushed against the hilt of his sword as he replied,"As a Champion, I will do what's best for Valoran. As a High Councilor, you should do the same."

Her perfectly manicured nails tapped rhythmically against the wooden desk. "You have proof that she is... not herself?"

"Speculation," he admitted, thumb ready against the guard of his sword. "With reason to believe."

Kiersta was silent for several minutes, the tension growing with every second that passed. Finally she whispered, "You're right, I must do what is right for Valoran." The sharp inhale of his breath masked the sound of steel drawing ever so slightly from a sheath, but the Councilor merely turned her chair. "Have a good day Mister Crownguard," she declared.

A shocked look passed across his face and he stammered, "C-councilor Mandrake?" but she simply waved a hand at him in response. On guard, he rose to his feet and backed slowly to the door and, when she did not turn around, quickly exited, his thoughts racing along with him down the twisting halls to Katarina.

***


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saladeo

Senior Member

12-21-2012

kitty thiis one of the best garen x katarina i have ever seen, your work is great, hope the world doesnt end today because then i wouldnt get to see you finish this incredible fanfic (not that i want it to end)

Saladeo
The King of Salads


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Frost Archer

Senior Member

12-21-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by saladeo View Post
kitty thiis one of the best garen x katarina i have ever seen, your work is great, hope the world doesnt end today because then i wouldnt get to see you finish this incredible fanfic (not that i want it to end)

Saladeo
The King of Salads
I dare to do better :P

Just kidding kitty You're a thousand times better than me. er, maybe only 10 times...... Cheesy stories are cheesy - and awesome! *gush*


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Drakojan

Member

12-21-2012

I haven't read it yet, but I STILL LOVE YOU! Reading nao.


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AerithRayne

This user has referred a friend to League of Legends, click for more information

Senior Member

12-25-2012

Back to the top with you, fool.


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FilthySaint

Senior Member

12-28-2012

Later that night; "Fear not, I'm, coming."


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kittytoast

Senior Member

12-28-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by FilthySaint View Post
Later that night; "Fear not, I'm, coming."
*winkwink* my favorite quote of Garen's :=]

Btw next chapter soon. I've been traveling for Christmas


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Drakojan

Member

12-31-2012

Bumpity bump. MERRY BELATED CHRISTMAS KITTY!!!


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kittytoast

Senior Member

12-31-2012

Merry Christmas to you!! And Happy New Year! Have an update, the last of 2012~!


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kittytoast

Senior Member

12-31-2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

Oh, a couple of people have asked and I always forget to answer. Which skin is Shyvana (with most wanting Iron-scale) in? Truth is, whichever tickles your fancy; it doesn't change the story or the character. I always picture people in classic which is why I skip on describing them. I just like the idea of Jarvan falling for a blue-tinted lady lol. I think that makes me a bad and lazy writer but... *puts onshades* oh well! XD Along that vein, my storyline editor is at work but I'm really desperate to post a chapter, so if I end up editing anything I'll let you peeps know.'

Rushrushrush. Lots of things going on in this chapter.

***
The Paths We Tread: Part One

***

One positive aspect of the temporary disbandment from the military and the League Lux found was that she was able to enjoy the warm May weather in civilian clothing, rather than the suffocating long sleeves and metal armor of her battle attire. Clad in a sleeveless summer dress which flowed about her knees, she had just stepped out for a brief walk through a nearby garden to enjoy the, sadly, unfamiliar sensation of the sun on her bare skin; it was upon her return that a soldier greeted Luxanna and her guard at the front door with a bow. "Lady Luxanna, you have a visitor."

"Prince Jarvan?" she inquired.

"No, a summoner from the Institute of War," he corrected, holding the door allowing her to pass. She had to suppress the urge to smile at how well tamed her "guards" were becoming. "I showed him to the study."

Curious, she pushed her way into the study, initially seeing nothing, when suddenly a pair of fuzzy ears appeared over the top of the couch followed by an equally furry face. "Um, hello," she greeted, crossing the room to sit across from the purple-robed yordle. "Can I help you?"

"You're Garen's sister Lux?" he questioned suspiciously.

Noting that he held a letter in his lap, the blonde, more curious than ever, answered, "I am. Do you bring word form him?"

With a sigh of relief, the summoner held out the letter and replied, "My name is Octavius. Garen told me to bring this straight to you and wait for your response."

Taking the paper, she read through it thoroughly, her blue eyes widening in surprise as she reached the end. Without a word about its content, Lux tucked it into her dress pocket as she stood and motioned for the yordle to follow her. "Come. I need to consult with Jarvan before I can give you a reply." To the guard waiting at the door she asked, "Please, I need to see Prince Jarvan IV. Will you take me?"

The guard, a young man of the Vanguard, was no match for her pleading smile. "Right away Miss Crownguard," he breathed, snapping to attention. As they exited, Lux's deft fingers grabbed her baton which sat near the door, instantly feeling more secure despite the nervousness that she'd gotten from the letter; she'd convinced the guards that, although she "couldn't use magic now" she simply felt naked without the instrument at her side. As such, the mage had to constantly make sure the magic that wasn't supposed to be flowing through her didn't light the ends of the staff as was typical.

It was a busy time of day and the streets of the capital city were alive with Demacian citizens going about their business as Luxanna, her guard, and the summoner pushed their way uphill toward the gleaming white spires that marked the castle. "How do you know Garen?" Luxanna asked to the waddling yordle beside her.

His gentle voice was nearly lost in the din of the street when he replied, "He and my boss- that's Nasus, he's a Champion too- are working together on... what you read in the letter."

"I see. So you're helping then? Even though you're a summoner?"

"Of course!" he squeaked. "It seems like the right thing to do, doesn't it? Besides, Nasus is counting on me."

Lux tilted her head thoughtfully before nodding, "Yeah. Yeah it does." Her own thoughts had been centered around the details of such an operation: The benefits to Demacia, the manpower needed to make it work, and the likelihood of success or failure. But it could be that simple, she supposed. The right thing to do. The rest of the walk was spent in silence, and by the time they were greeted by the castle's steward, Luxanna was grateful for the quiet reprieve of the castle walls.

"Please, inform Prince Jarvan Lightshield IV that Luxanna Crownguard is here to speak with him," she requested. "If he is busy, tell him I will wait for him. It's very important." With a bow, the steward set off, leaving the three to wait in the castle's grand entryway.

Castle was a generous term, in Luxanna's opinion, as she doubted the extravagant construction would be of any defensive use if war came to the capital city; palace was much more accurate. It was not unlike the Institute of War in structure, with open, pillar-lined hallways surrounding the perimeter which led into the equally stately interior: Crystalline chandeliers, curving stairways, and pristine white marble walls all accented with the deep teals and vibrant golds of Demacia's crest.

The mage glanced down at Octavius, who seemed to be reeling by the sheer size of everything around him, and grinned, "I take it you've never been to Demacia?"

"N-no," he stammered, shaking his head. "I mean, I thought it would be like the Institute but this is... a lot to take in."

"If it makes you feel any better," she offered, "the first time I remember coming here, I was five and Garen was twelve. He ran into the middle of the foyer over there with me on his shoulders and I looked up at that gigantic ceiling while he spun around in circles. I got so dizzy that I threw up all over the floor."

Octavius laughed and even her hitherto silent guard chuckled. "True story," she added, her smile genuine for the first time in what felt like ages.

"Miss Crownguard?" the returning steward ventured as he approached. "The Prince will see you. If you would follow me."

Sharing a determined look, Lux and Octavius followed straight along the hall and up the main staircase to the nearly silent residency wing where she knew Jarvan's room and study were. The steward knocked on the heavy wood door, announcing her arrival and the Prince cracked it open immediately.

"Luxanna please come in," he invited, stepping back to allow just enough space for her and the summoner to pass through. Addressing her guard, he added, "You may return to your regular duties. I will escort Luxanna back to her home." The young man looked confused momentarily, but seeing the Prince's brow furrow, he snapped into a flustered salute and dashed back the way they'd come. Upon entering Lux was surprised to find that Shyvana was present as well, and Octavius took a hesitant step back from the Half-Dragon, positioning himself behind the mage's legs.

"Thanks Jarvan," Lux sighed once the door was shut. "It's so tiring having someone follow me around all day. How are you Shyvana?"

"I am well," she huffed curtly.

"And I would appreciate if you did not mention her presence here to anyone," Jarvan quickly added, taking a seat next to her and indicating Lux and Octavius to sit across from them on a plush loveseat. "Who are you?" he questioned, nodding at the yordle.

"A summoner from the Institute," he murmured.

"He brought this from Garen," Luxanna interjected, passing the letter to the Jarvan and Shyvana. "And he needs a response right away."

25 May, 22CLE

Lux & Jarvan,

I hope this letter finds you in a good way. I know I just saw Jarvan the other day but so many things have happened already. Katarina, her sister Cassiopeia, their father's ward Talon, the Curator Nasus, the Noxian exile Riven, the late Night Hunter, and the summoner Octavius who delivered this letter, have discovered that High Councilor Vessaria Kolminye was the one who passed along the information which led to my exile and yours and Shyvana's suspension/discharge. Not to mention Vayne immediately turned up dead after going to confront Vessaria. It can't be a coincidence; I refuse to believe a random criminal could kill that woman.

We suspect LeBlanc is involved somehow, either manipulating Vessaria or working with her. The King himself said that Vessaria told him LeBlanc was dead and to forget about her. I believe it was to cover up suspicions of LeBlanc and the Black Rose's involvement. This on top of Vessaria declaring martial law? LeBlanc seeks power and what is more powerful than Vessaria and the Institute? There's no solid proof but it all makes sense.

This said, what I am about to ask is no small favor. I know you have already lost everything you've worked for, especially you Lux, but I am asking for more. Possibly within the fortnight, we are going to move against her if we can. We are beginning to spread the truth and recruit other Champions as discreetly as possible, but she essentially has an army of summoners, and if LeBlanc is on her side, then Swain and his army will be as well. We need as much help as we can get.

So I'm asking you to join us when the time comes. You and whoever you can recruit, Champions, soldiers, anyone. For the sake of Valoran, we must shut her down. We can't allow her to continue gaining power and oppressing the city-states of Valoran. If we can come in full force, she might not suspect it and we can kill her without causing a full scale war. That's the idea anyway. Send word back as soon as you can. Octavius will deliver it straight to me or one of the others. If you need to contact us, send a summoner or someone else you can trust that can deliver the message as quickly as possible. It's the safest way and we need to be as quick and discreet as possible.

Please be careful,

Garen

Both Jarvan and Shyvana's faces grew increasingly more distressed as they read, and when they finished, the Prince choked out, "It's come to this?"

"Apparently," Lux whispered. "What do you think?"

"I will do it just to get my teeth into Vessaria's throat," Shyvana snarled, causing Lux and Octavius to jump in surprise at the fire in her tone. "She has caused trouble for me, and even more for Jarvan."

Shaking his head and setting a hand on the dragon-woman's thigh, Jarvan replied, "Doing this is a death sentence for me politically. My father would never support this, he's too close to Vessaria. So if I do it and we lose- besides the fact that I might be dead- I'll be cut off."

"It would be better to die fighting the evils of the world than to let them willingly come into your home," Shyvana rebutted. "You claimed this once, Jarvan, when we first met. Have you forgotten?"

The Prince looked taken aback, and a slow flush spread across his cheeks, keeping him silent.

"You know, if we win," Lux said slowly, chewing on a fingernail, "it would look pretty good for you. The Prince who took initiative to protect the world when the King did nothing..."

"This is true," the Half-Dragon responded.

Jarvan considered her judgment for a moment, then slowly nodded in agreement. "You're right. I would not abandon Valoran in a time of need, nor would I abandon Garen. I'm with you one-hundred percent. I'm sure I can find a way to get some soldiers to follow me as well."

"If they truly believe in delivering justice, they will follow," Shyvana stated, flashing him a fierce grin which he returned. Gods did he love that smile.

Octavius coughed, "So, I can tell the others you will join?"

"Yes," Jarvan boomed. "I will speak with those from the Elite Guard and Vanguard that are most loyal to me as well as the other Demacian Champions. I can't promise we will bring an army, but we three will be ready."

The yordle nodded and jumped to his feet. "I'll go tell him."

"Care, summoner," Lux smiled.

Octavius murmured, "Thanks," and held his hands out in front of him, a blue glow forming between his palms which quickly engulfed him and in a blink, he was gone.

A moment of silence descended between the three former Champions, until Shyvana finally grinned, "Vessaria doesn't even know what's coming."

***

Sand whipped by Nasus's face and clung to his fur in way he knew would be difficult to clean later, but it was so reminiscent of his home that he didn't mind. Lesser beings might have felt suffocated by the sand and wind and sun that bore down on the lands past the Great Barrier, but for the canine-Champion it only made him feel invigorated. Normally he would spend hours drifting amongst the dunes and beneath the floating pyramids, but today his mission took him West, away from the heart of the Shurima desert to the dusty ruins of Urtistan.

The summoners had transported him right along the boundaries of the ancient city, allowing Nasus to survey the wreckage as he approached the massive clock tower which still stood, though other structures had since been lost to the sands. He'd even called in a favor and received a beacon which would allow him to be located and summoned back when activated, something they rarely gave out for "frivolous usage." Not that he expected his excursion into the ruins to last long, but it did give him a little leeway to take his time.

As he neared, he could see he was correct about the Chronokeeper's whereabouts, as a faint blue glow radiated from the behind the clock tower's face which had long since stopped. A winding staircase whose crumbling steps the Curator dryly imagine the Chronokeeper easily floating over, led him to a trapdoor at the top of the tower, which was already opened for him.

"Did you see me coming, Zilean?" Nasus asked.

Zilean, the immortal chronomage, hovered inches above the floor surrounded by the blue light which emanated from both the mage's eyes and the massive, ticking clock which was strapped to his back. As Nasus's words reached him in whatever faraway time he was experiencing, the glow slowly faded to nothing and the immortal murmured, "Yes and no. I thought it might be sooner that one such as yourself would seek my council."

Crossing his legs to sit across from the old mage, the Curator replied, "Then you know why I've come?"

The Chronokeeper shifted his gaze from Nasus's face to something beyond, further even than the ruins that stretched out behind him. "News of war." For a brief second, a look of agitation crossed his ancient face and he cried, "No!" before sighing in relief, "It has not happened yet. But it will."

"Can you see the outcome?" Nasus pressed. "What will become of Valoran?"

Tugging his beard thoughtfully, Zilean stated, "I see many outcomes, many possibilities. Some are good, some are bad. Down some paths I see the great cities of Valoran falling as Urtistan did, to great armies of Summoners. And others show a lasting war and the repercussions, the land ruined from the destruction we will wrought upon it."

"And are there any paths in which the battle is short and the land is saved?" the canine-Champion inquired, feeling significantly more hopeless than when he first arrived.

Again, the mage's eyes became foggy with the sight of something only he could see, but he only murmured, "Urtistan is quite beautiful in the summer time. See how the desert willows and bluebells begin to bloom? The city is covered in them, pinks and blues."

"I'd like to have seen that," Nasus responded as gently as he could; he knew the old mage's chrono-displasia was a source of torment for him. No sense in being intolerant of it.

Summer passed in the blink of an eye, seasons changing to war and destruction and all occurring for Zilean in the span of a breath. The mage dropped his gaze to the sandy ruins and even Nasus felt his heart go out at the distraught expression that took the old man's face. But as quickly as it came it was gone and Zilean disclosed, "There are paths from which Valoran will benefit. They are fewer, for it is painfully simple for all to go awry. But they are possibilities."

Nasus accepted this declaration with a slow nod. "Then when the time comes, will you stand with us to prevent the destruction of Valoran? My allies and I seek to bring the Deceiver, the one responsible for these things, to justice."

The Chronokeeper grimaced. "I will. Though it means that, if thing go well, I might be forced to aid that wretched armored bear. Nevertheless, I shall, for the sake of Valoran." Then, so quietly Nasus would have missed it if not for his enhanced hearing, Zilean added, "For Urtistan."

The urge to smile almost overcame the stoic Curator of the Sands, but he managed to present the chronomage with a sincere, "Thank you. Would you like to return with me to the Institute of War?"

"Please, if you wouldn't mind," Zilean accepted, taking hold of Nasus's arm as the canine reached to the beacon he wore as a pendant around his neck. The beacon was nondescript accessory, simply a small square of metal with an amethyst stone in the center, which, when pressed and held, would emit a magical signal which could be picked up by those manning the summoning platforms in the Institute of War. For a moment, nothing happened, but the familiar blue glow of a summons began to surround the two Champions and in a flash, the desert and its ruins were behind them.

As Nasus parted ways with Zilean, he finally allowed himself to feel a small piece of triumph. Not only had he gained the support of the powerful chronomage, but his complaints about the armored bear indicated that if things went well, Freljord would be on their side as well. Bearing this in mind, Nasus mentally moved the Frost Archer and her husband up the list of Champions to recruit.

***

"Garen!"

Garen had been in the midst of retrieving a throwing knife from the target boards he and Talon rigged about Katarina's room (against the Infirmary's requests), when Talon unceremoniously charged into the room shouting his name; he briefly considered testing his skill with the knife against Talon's face, but managed a strained, "Yes?" instead.

Taking the knives from his hands and thrusting them at an intrigued Katarina, the hooded assassin pushed the soldier into the hall and shut the behind them, calling over his shoulder, "We'll be right back!"

"To what do I owe this fine pleasure?" the Demacian scoffed, whipping around so that Talon would lose his grip on his shoulder.

"I got a letter from Marcus, Katarina's father," the assassin blurted. "He mentioned you. How does he know who you are?"

"From who-what?"

Pulling the letter from his cloak, Talon read, "PS: Bring that Demacian fellow Katarina keeps around. I need to make sure he's been doing what I told him. What does that mean? When did you talk to him?"

Garen flashed the Noxian an incredulous stare. "The hell if I know! I've never met the guy!"

A low growl bubbled in that back of Talon's throat and he grumbled, "Kinda slight man, my height. Black and gray hair, short beard that's the same color. Katarina looks just like the *******, same ****-eating smirk and everything. Ring a bell?"

"That could be anyone!" the soldier argued, but as the words left his mouth, he recalled a very frustrating conversation with a cloaked stranger at the bar in Kalamanda and the rest of his argument died in his throat. Instead he croaked, "F-favors a dagger and the color black? Kinda sarcastic?"

Talon couldn't even begin to hide his surprise. "What the ****. You've actually talked to him."

"I-maybe?" Garen stammered. "I don't know! There was a guy at the Hasty Hammer, maybe, ten minutes before you came and dragged me out. Kinda fits that description. What else did the letter say?"

"Marcus wants to meet up and coordinate, to help us fight LeBlanc and Swain," Talon muttered, "and he said to bring you along. To... to the Hasty Hammer." The two men stared at each other for a few moments in neutral silence, until a low chuckle from Garen started a short fit of disbelieving laughter from both of them.

"Small ****ing world," Talon commented with a shake of his head. "If it was him, what did he tell you?"

The Demacian thought about it, then let out an embarrassed cough. "To, um, man up."

A sputtering scoff burst from the assassin's mouth. "I guess we'll see right? Get some stuff ready; we're going to Kalamanda."

***

"As you can see, there is strong evidence that the Institute is corrupted once more," Nasus explained, reaching the end of his description and feeling like quite the diplomat. "There is a strong and evil force at work, manipulating the Institute and threatening the lives of he citizens of Valoran. If Freljord were on our side when we go to stop her, we would surely succeed."

He sat across from Ashe and Tryndamere, Freljord's rulers, in the private suite within the Institute's residency, a minimalistic room with only the most necessary furniture. In fact, the Curator sat in one of the rooms' two chairs, while the Frost Archer occupied the other and the Barbarian King stood beside her, a perfect foil: Dark and wild where she was pale and serene.

"And who is in this group of yours?" the barbarian huffed.

Nasus hesitated. "Myself, Garen Crownguard, Zilean the Chronokeeper, and... and Katarina, Cassiopeia, and Talon, DuCouteau, and Riven the Exile." He'd rushed through their names as quickly as he could, but Tryndamere's eyes darkened instantly upon hearing the name "DuCouteau."

"A family of Noxian assassins, correct?" Ashe inquired.

"Somewha-"

"I don't want to help someone who might have had a hand in the slaughter of my people!" Tryndamere roared.

Nasus frowned; he hadn't anticipated such resistance. "In fairness, they are no longer affiliated with Noxus. We all seek the preservation of Valoran."

Opening his mouth to argue, the Barbarian King was silenced as Ashe held up a slender hand and said, "A noble cause. But what are their intentions for after such a battle? Can they be trusted to see us through the battle and into the aftermath?"

"I-"

"Because while the cause is just," Ashe started, "there is more myself and Tryndamere must consider. We are more than Champions of the League, we are the leaders of Freljord. I must do what is good for my people first, before the citizens of other city-states."

"But what happens if we lose here and now?" Nasus argued. "Do you think a corrupted Institute will ignore Freljord? It has already begun. Groups of summoners have already been dispatched to the city-states to force cooperation with the Institute. If we fail and the other city-states fall, who will come to Freljord's aid with the Institute turns their gaze north?"

An icy glint took hold in the Frost Archer's eyes and a delicate frown tugged on her lips, and both the Freljordians considered his words.

"I truly understand," the queen stated, "but we will need to discuss it together. As the King and Queen, we cannot just make decisions like this without talking with our council."

"And what about the other Champions of Freljord?" Nasus asked desperately. "Can you commit at least Freljords Champions, if not their soldiers?"

Tryndamere gripped the back of his wife's chair and rumbled, "We can't just sign up other Champions to fight your battles for you; they are of their own independent tribes. We can pass along the details to them, and if they join, it's their own choice."

It wasn't the answer he'd expected to receive when he'd come, but Nasus nodded in recognition as he stood. "I would appreciate that. Thank you for your time today. I hope to hear from you, Ashe, Tryndamere. Please consider it, for all our sakes."

The barbarian mumbled something under his breath about Noxians, but Ashe inclined her head respectfully. "We will. Good day, Curator of the Sands."

***